Archive for November 15, 2012

Climate Change and Solar Solutions: A Hurricane Sandy (Ongoing) Experience

Solar plus energy storage would be the answer to challenge freak storms

Raina Russo drives through the ravaged streets of her coastal neighborhood in New York, dodging downed trees and aware of the constant sirens that indicate emergency workers are responding to yet another fire. This is what she calls her “new normal” in her life post-Sandy. Reflecting on her own experience, Russo says she has come to realize our true dependence on power and how it affects our lives.

“You think of power and you think you’ve lost electricity in your home, refrigerator, heater, and so on. But it’s so much more than that. We lost power and cell service dropped; we were up against a gas shortage because the pipelines turn off during the storm and during loss of electricity,” Russo explains. “So you have no power, and all of a sudden you have no communication and no transportation – and you have no means of even operating generators that weren’t flooded because of the gas shortage. Its such a compounded situation, and it’s all about power.”

One part of Russo’s property that seems to have made it through the storm unscathed: her 10.4-kW rooftop solar system. Pending a full system check from Mercury Solar Solutions, her installer, Russo says it looks like her inverters are high enough to have avoided flood damage, and her panels withstood the Hurricane-force winds and remain intact.
Russo lost electricity because her system is tied to the grid; during outages most systems shut down to prevent power from feeding into power lines, which endangers workers that may be out for repairs. This got Russo thinking about storage solutions. She says she hadn’t thought about storage until Sandy, but after speaking to friends and neighbors who own top-of-the-line generators that were flooded and, ultimately, unusable, Russo thinks she should take her existing system to the next level.

“Storage is going to be my first priority in my [home] rebuild process. I need to consult with people on this because I’m not an expert, but why would I invest in a gas generator,” says Russo. “Our panels are on our roof, supposedly they are not damaged, the inverters are high enough that they are not getting damaged either, so if we had storage, that could act as our backup generator.”

The good news: Home solar arrays seemed to withstand Sandy’s furious winds. Sungevity says the company’s installations are designed to hold up to sustained winds of up to 100 miles per hour. Sandy’s gusts hit 90 mph at their peak.

Sunrun, another residential solar company, has about 6,500 customers in the Northeast, and hadn’t received any reports of damage by Wednesday afternoon, according to spokeswoman Susan Wise. John Steeves, a Sungevity customer in Woodstown, N.J., with 39 panels on his roof, says the storm flooded his basement, knocked out power, and toppled massive trees in his neighborhood—but left his solar arrays unscathed. He thinks having the panels above even helped protect the roof of his 47-year-old home. The entire article can be located here

Levy comments: So,if we had added storage to our solar systems for homes and businesses, we would have power. The missing link: the battery. They are expensive, today’s most popular batteries, lead-acid, have limited lives, some need maintenance on a constant basis, and the upcoming lithium batteries being used in autos are very expensive. There are novel chemistries that show promise, but unless you have an Angel investor willing to sink millions into a ‘maybe’ we will not realize an affordable energy store in the next ten years. There are novel chemistries out there who have sought government investments such as SBIRs, SunShot initiatives, but none can demonstrate a pathway to less than $150 per kilowatthour. That is what we need. I am personally aware of the struggles one energy storage company has gone through to find that one Angel investor or government (federal, state) that is willing to risk the money. China has had its ‘Great Leap’ and now the United States needs a similar ‘Great Leap’ in energy storage. The need is there, where are the risk takers?

Attorney general says solar tax break violates state constitution

A tax break for Tennessee’s solar industry violates the state constitution because it favors certain taxpayers, state Attorney General Robert Cooper said Friday, jeopardizing the future viability of the credit.

An exemption created in 2010 for solar and other green energy installations is prohibited by a provision of the state constitution that says the legislature cannot pass laws that let certain taxpayers out of paying property taxes, Cooper said.

The break was one of three that former Gov. Phil Bredesen pushed through the legislature in the waning days of his administration. The decision will likely rekindle efforts, led by state Comptroller Justin Wilson, to roll back the property tax exemption and replace it with a less generous tax cut.

more

Black Bear Solar Institute provides electric car chargers, wildlife rehab

Black Bear Solar Institute, through operating electric vehicle charging stations and demonstrating how solar technology operates, has established a Green Gateway to Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Townsend.

The institute operates electric vehicle charging stations from major metropolitan areas of the state and the interstates to the national park gateway community of Townsend, said Lisa Stewart, vice president and executive director of Black Bear Solar Institute. People can stop in the office at Trillium Cove and get their electric cars recharged, see demonstrations of solar equipment installation methods and practices.

The nonprofit group headquartered in Pigeon Forge expanded to Townsend earlier this year, locating in the Trillium Cove Shopping Village off East Lamar Alexander Parkway at 161 Painted Trillium Way in Townsend.

In addition to operating charging stations and providing renewable energy information, proceeds from corporate purchases of 30-year solar module sponsorships will help establish a wildlife rehabilitation facility in a remote area of Townsend.

“One result of this project is to make Townsend the most electric vehicle-friendly city in the world, with more charging stations per capita than any city on earth,” Stewart said.
more

Graduate Students Win Tennessee Landscape Architecture Design Awards

Students in the Landscape Architecture Program won top awards in the 2012 American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) Tennessee Chapter Design Awards Program.
The students accepted their awards in mid-October at the ASLA Conference held in Franklin, Tennessee.

A project by Luke Murphree, from Greer, SC and Patrick Osborne from Fall Branch, TN, “Solar Greenways,” won an Award of Honor in the General Design category. The design proposed the integration of an alternative energy infrastructure into the First Creek Greenway corridor to reduce fossil fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions.

Murphree, a second-year landscape design student, said, “‘Solar Greenways’ demonstrates the progressive abilities of landscape architects and students to respond to environmental issues such as climate change in a way that offers ecological, economic, and social benefits to our society.”

The UT Landscape Architecture Program, recently accredited by the Landscape Architecture Accreditation Board, is the first and only accredited professional landscape architecture program in Tennessee.

more

Johnson, Former Progress Energy CEO, Named New President and CEO of TVA

The Tennessee Valley Authority’s Board of Directors has announced that William D. Johnson will become its president and chief executive officer, effective Jan. 1, 2013. Johnson most recently served as CEO of Progress Energy, where he was instrumental in brokering the merger between Progress and Duke Energy in 2011.

It was expected that Johnson would supplant Duke CEO Jim Rogers as head of the newly-formed company, but Duke — whose shareholders reportedly own 63% of the combined company — announced Rogers would maintain his position shortly before the merger was completed.
The Tennessee Valley Authority says Kilgore will continue leading the US$11 billion federal agency until Johnson’s arrival, then help in the transition period following.

TVA is a federally funded utility established in 1933 by Congress to develop systems of delivery for electricity and management of natural resources. Today, TVA maintains 29 hydroelectric projects, along with a pumped-storage facility and several externally owned dams.

more